The crew of What is Philanthropy? shot footage in the Detroit area that brings us two additional perspectives on philanthropy. After worship services in a local mosque, Imam Achmet Salie discussed the roles of zakat and sadaqa in the Muslim faith. Brother Salie talked about how his congregation takes responsibility for members that may fall on hard times. The congregation also is active in contributing to community causes, whether related to the Muslim faith or not. Brother Salie was gracious, hospitable and effective at pointing out the similarities among the major religions and how we all should focus on living together in peace and harmony.
Dr. Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in Engineering at Oakland University. Her research focuses on the intersection of neuroscience and society. One of her latest publications centers on what we discussed for the documentary, the concept of pathological altruism. The concept is described in the book as “any behavior or personal tendency in which either the stated aim or the implied motivation is to promote the welfare of another. But, instead of overall beneficial outcomes, the ‘altruism’ instead has irrational (from the point of view of an outside observer) and substantial negative consequences to the other or even to the self” (Oakley, Knafo and McGrath, 2011, p.3). The concept reminds us that intention of good by itself is not sufficient and that some acts in history considered “philanthropic” may have done more harm than good. This concept is important to our collective, critical look at philanthropy.